Oct 7, 2014 4:00 PM by NBC News
A Michigan police officer is being called a hero for turning a traffic stop into a random act of kindness and helping a woman who could not afford to buy a car seat for her child.
The mom, Lexi DeLorenzo, called the experience "unforgettable" - and recalled that her heart sank when she saw the police officer approach.
"I know that children should be in booster seats," DeLorenzo, 25, told TODAY Parents. "But I didn't have a choice."
DeLorenzo explained she was going through tough times. Her fiancé lost his job in July and was recently diagnosed with cancer, she said. The couple has been living paycheck to paycheck on her part time income and their car was repossessed in August.
DeLorenzo's ex-husband has custody of their two children, but she has visitation every other weekend. When he couldn't drop their daughter off Friday evening at her house, she asked a friend to give her a ride to pick up the girl. DeLorenzo didn't have the money to buy a car seat for the trip.
Emmett Township Public Safety Officer Ben Hall pulled over a car near downtown Battle Creek and spotted DeLorenzo's 5-year-old daughter in the back seat. She was wearing a seat belt but not riding in a booster seat, as recommended for children her age.
What happened next amazed DeLorenzo. Hall asked her to meet him at a nearby Walmart in 15 minutes. Once there, he picked out a booster seat and paid for it himself - about $55 total.
"She was telling me that she hit a rough patch," Hall recalled. "I know that writing a citation wasn't going to solve the problem. The biggest thing I wanted to do is give the child a reliable and dependable booster seat and giving someone a ticket is not going to fix that."
"It was an unforgettable experience," DeLorenzo said. "I've never heard of a cop going out of his way - when he could have easily given me a ticket and made things more difficult. He, out of his own pocket and the kindness of his heart, did something to help me."
A store employee took photos of Hall purchasing the seat and the police officer has been overwhelmed by the public reaction after the pictures were posted on the police department's Facebook page. Hundreds of people have left comments praising Hall's actions. He's just glad he could help the family.
"If I could do something for them, and particularly for the child, to prevent something (bad) from happening, then I'm more than willing to do so," Hall said.
DeLorenzo wrote on Facebook that Hall had changed her life - not just by giving her a car seat, but by giving her hope.
"I will be forever grateful!" she wrote. "And as soon as I can afford it I will be paying forward."